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LHRC information for UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
I Public use of minority languages

1. Despite the fact that, according to last (2000) census data, Russian language is native for more than 37% inhabitants of Latvia (Central Statistical Bureau http://www.csb.gov.lv/csp/content/?lng=en&cat=355 choose Population census and Results in short, Latvian), only Latvian and Liv languages have official status in Latvia. The fact of 37%-language being unofficial even on municipal level is unique in Europe now.
NB During the 1990-ies, percentage of Russian-speaking decreased dramatically from 42% in 1989 (www.iea.ras.ru/topic/census/mon/zepa_mon2000.htm Russian).

2. According to 1998 Education law, since 1999, minority languages as language of instruction (de facto, Russian) are striked out of public universities, and since 2004, use of any minority language in public secondary schools (forms 10-12) is limited within 40% despite:
- legal arguments of 20 members of Parliament given in a case before the Constitutional Court (http://www.satv.tiesa.gov.lv/upload/2004-18-0106E.rtf judgement).
- disagreement of most teachers, pupils and parents shown in surveys (http://www.politika.lv/index.php?f=57 See p. 79. Latvian) and demand for education, at least in Russian (proven by existance of private Russian-language educational bodies),
- wide protests of interested people, including meetings gathering tens of thousands people (http://www.pctvl.lv/?lang=en&mode=party&submode=background&page_id=236 List of most considerable protests)
- traditions of Russian education in Latvia coming from 18th century (http://www.dialogi.lv/article.php?id=218&t=0&rub=3&la=1, Russian) and
- pedagogical difficulties (http://zapchel.lv/?lang=ru&mode=archive&submode=year2006&page_id=4418 excerpts from official Riga Department of Education 2005 yearbook, in Russian).
NB CERD noted in 2003, that The importance of maintaining a close dialogue with the schools and local communities, including both parents and children, is paramount in the process (http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/CERD.C.63.CO.7.En?Opendocument Paragraph 15).

3. According to Articles 10, 18 and 21 of the 1999 State Language Law (http://www.vvk.lv/index.php?sadala=134&id=164 Latvian), state and municipal authorities are allowed to accept documents in Latvian only from Latvian residents, except some special cases (emergency services, criminal proceedings). They, and public enterprises, may provide information in Latvian only again, except some special cases. Local names, street names and other topographical indications intended for the public are given in Latvian only, except a small area in the west of Latvia (Liv coast).
The legal basis for this policy are reservations to Articles 10 and 11, made by Latvian Parliament in 2005 while ratifying Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
NB CERD noted in 2003, that the scope of language requirements in the State Language Law in relation to employment, particularly in the private sector, may lead to discrimination against minorities. The Committee recommends that the State party ensure that the State Language Law does not result in unnecessary restrictions that may have the effect of creating or perpetuating ethnic discrimination. The Committee calls on the State party to ensure that vulnerable groups, such as prisoners, sick and poor persons, among non-Latvian speakers have the possibility of communicating with the relevant authorities through provision of, if necessary, translation facilities (http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/CERD.C.63.CO.7.En?Opendocument Paragraph 9)

4. 44. The 2003 report recommended facilitating the use of minority languages in the administration, particularly in written correspondence between persons belonging to the national minorities and administrative staff. Not only has there been no change to the relevant legislation, but it would appear that all discussion of this topic has been dropped. Officially, only the Latvian language can be used in communications with the authorities or administrative departments. This rigid legal provision is an obstacle to the integration of minorities. Fortunately, there is some flexibility in practice. Some local administrations and institutions agree to consider applications in minority languages. For instance, more than half of all complaints submitted to the National Human Rights Office are in the Russian language. Other departments, e.g. in Daugavpils, provide translators for such communications. The Commissioner renews the previous recommendation and invites the Latvian authorities to devote particular attention to it.
(Commisioner for Human Rights of Council of Europe, Memorandum to the Latvian Government. Assessment of the progress made in implementing the 2003 recommendations of the CoE Commissioner for Human Rights. 16 May 2007 https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=1134279&BackColorInternet=FEC65B&BackColorIntranet=FEC65B&BackColorLogged=FFC679 )

II Tolerance of Latvian state towards racism and xenophobia, 2007:

1. During a discussion on Nazism, Neo-Nazism and Xenophobia in Riga on 17 February 2007, Mr. A. Jordans claimed, that Jews and Roma are not human beings, so they are not among members of our organization and on the later question Should it be understood that aim of your organization here is to organize something similar Ethnic cleansings, killing those whom you dont consider to be humans? responded Yes, that will be an ideal variant. The police started an investigation upon a request from two Riga City councillors.
However, public prosecutor Mrs. I. Garanča called the questions asked to Mr. Jordans provocative, mentioned his limited skills in Russian (the language of discussion) and didnt find a reference to any specific ethnic group in his second statement because asking people spoke generally on those whom Jordans doesnt consider to be humans, without mentioning specific ethnicities (nacionalitātes) or races and therefore - any crime, too (Article 78 of Criminal Law foresees punishment for any deliberate actions inciting ethnic or racial hatred). So, Mrs Garanča had ended the criminal proceedings in Jordans case.
This prosecutors decision was confirmed by a higher public prosecutor Mr. E. Bērziņš on 12 September, 2007, after an appeal from Riga City councillors.

(Decision of prosecutor Garanča, 23.08.2007. http://russian-latvia.info/docs/jordans-prokurora-lemums.pdf (Latvian), http://russian-latvia.info/docs/jordans-innocent.pdf (unofficial translation into Russian)
Decision of prosecutor Bērziņš, 12.09.2007. http://www.pctvl.lv/pdf/Scan07-09-20.tif (Latvian)

2. A party called NSS (Nacionālā spēka savienība, National Power Unity) exists and participates in elections, acknowledged by state as a political party. Its ideas, as given to public, include such statements, for example: It is needed to grant priority for Latvians in Latvia in all fields of life, which is accepted by international law, in critical case when life of nation is threatened. We want to reach a state, where belonging to ethnic Latvians would mean automatically rights on better-paid jobs, advantages in business, education and social guarantees.

(http://www.latvians.lv/modules/articles/article.php?id=242 Basic ideas of NSS (Latvian))

3. Since 2002, newspaper DDD (Deoccupation. Decolonisation. Debolshevisation) is published (circulation as of September, 2007 - 5000). In May, 2007, its editors and journalists Mr. A. Garda, Mrs. L. Muzikante and and Mrs. I. Liepa were acquitted of inciting ethnic hatred in the first-instance court despite using old-fashioned Latvian word žīds perceived now as derogatory for Jews and referring to non-citizens as to occupants.
(excerpts form court protocol www.dddlnf.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=267&Itemid=29, in Latvian; news www.delfi.lv/news/national/criminal/article.php?id=18011717 in Latvian).

4. CERD noted in 2003: 10. The Committee is concerned that the law of the State party does not fully respond to the requirements of article 4 of the Convention. The Committee notes that the State party has failed to effectively prohibit all organized and other propaganda activities and to recognize participation in such activities as an offence punishable by law, in accordance with article 4 (b) of the Convention. The Committee recommends that the State party review its domestic law in the light of its general recommendation XV concerning the implementation of article 4 of the Convention, and that it adopt specific legislation on organized and other propaganda activities that promote and incite racial discrimination, irrespective of the legal status of the group or organization. (http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/CERD.C.63.CO.7.En?Opendocument )

III Attitude to old Nazism in Latvia, 2007

1. Simon Wiesenthal Center Annual Reports on the Worldwide
Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals

In 2005-2006 Report Latvia was classified as belonging to Category C (the best being A, the worst being F, countries that failed to respond to the questionnaire and in which there is no indication of any activity to investigate and/or prosecute Nazi war criminals were included in category X).
Category C has meaned: Minimal Success That Could Have Been Greater, Additional Steps Urgently Required. Those countries which have failed to obtain any convictions or indictments during the period under review but have either advanced ongoing cases currently in litigation or have opened new investigations, which have serious potential for prosecution.
www.wiesenthal.com/site/apps/s/content.asp?c=fwLYKnN8LzH&b=253162&ct=2230591 (2006)

The situation has worsened in the 2006-2007 Report (published in April, 2007) Latvia is placed into Category F-2.
This category means: Failure in practice. Those countries in which there are no legal obstacles to the investigation and prosecution of suspected Nazi war criminals, but whose efforts (or lack thereof) have resulted in complete failure during the period under review, primarily due to the absence of political will to proceed and/or a lack of the requisite resources and/or expertise.
http://www.wiesenthal.com/site/apps/s/content.asp?c=fwLYKnN8LzH&b=253162&ct=3761331 (2007)

2. Misuse of democratic freedom of assembly

The annual march honouring the combatants of Latvian-SS Legion (taking place in Riga, on the 16 of March) was banned in 2006 following anti-fascist protests in 2005 (and 2005 was the last time when a member of parliament participated in the march http://www.visulatvijai.lv/index.php?kat=n&id=398 Latvian), but again allowed in 2007.

www.delfi.lv/archive/article.php?id=17201660&ndate=1173996000&categoryID=193 (Latvian), http://rus.delfi.lv/archive/article.php?id=17201326&ndate=1173996000&categoryID=57860 (Russian)

IV Non-citizens

1. As of 2007, about 390 000 or 17% of population of Latvia are so-called citizens of the former USSR or non-citizens (nepilsonis) (http://www.pmlp.gov.lv/images/documents/07.pdf Latvian). More than 99,5 % of them were representatives of ethnic minorities (http://www.pmlp.gov.lv/images/documents/06.pdf Latvian. See Latvijas nepilsonis graph; there were 1851 etnnic Latvians (latvietis) among non-citizens). So, more than 40% of ethnic minorities were non-citizens. There are more than 60 differences in citizens and non-citizens rights (http://www.pctvl.lv/i/doc/last_prisoners.pdf).

2. Naturalization rate decreased in 2006 (16 439 persons naturalized compared with 19 169 in 2005), and is expected to be even slower in 2007 (4146 during January-June versus 7432 in 2006) (http://www.np.gov.lv/lv/faili_lv/stat_latv.xls Latvian).
NB CERD noted in 2003, that 13. While noting the measures taken by the State party to increase the rate of naturalization of non-citizens, the Committee remains concerned at the limited results of these efforts. The Committee is concerned at the growing number of persons who fail the language examination and at the possible lack of availability or accessibility of Latvian language instruction for all those wishing to benefit from this facility. The Committee recommends that the State party further study the underlying reasons for the low level of naturalization applications with a view to devising strategies targeting specific groups of potential applicants. The Committee stresses that positive measures should be employed to attract non-citizens to the process, while ensuring that any measures taken do not adversely affect their current status. It also strongly urges the State party to ensure the availability of Latvian language instruction, to the extent possible, for those wishing to avail themselves of such opportunities.
(http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/CERD.C.63.CO.7.En?Opendocument )

3. The Minister of justice G. Bērziņš, whose party offered to put an end to naturalization in its program for 2006 elections (http://www.tb.lv/index.php?id=382 Latvian), therefore concluded on 1 August, 2007, that urgency of naturalization has decreased (http://www.tm.gov.lv/lv/jaunumi/tm_info.html?news_id=1515 Latvian).
However, ESCO mission monitoring the parliamentary elections in 2006 made a contradicitive conclusion: The fact that a significant percentage of the adult population does not enjoy voting rights represents a continuing democracy deficit (http://www.oscepa.org/admin/getbinary.asp?FileID=1508).

4. The following is part of those international institutions who expressed recommendations to grant voting rights in local elections to Latvian non-citizens, like it is made in Estonia (documents Nr. 1-4, 6 include recommendation to make naturalisation more effective, too):

1. UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
2. European commission on Racism and Intolerance,
3. UN Human Rights Committee
http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/CCPR.CO.79.LVA.En?Opendocument ,
4. CoE Commissioner for Human Rights
5. Congress of Local And Regional Authorities of Europe
6. European Parliament
7. ESCO Parliamentary Assembly

5. On 22 March, 2007, Parliament voted on granting voting rights for non-citizens in local elections. For 22, against 65, abstained 1 (http://www.saeima.lv/steno/Saeima9/070322/Balsoj/016.htm Latvian).
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